Fear Factory; a band of hybrid yet homogonous proportion have held the title of Industrialists for the past two decades with their compelling concepts of man versus the machine. The band are soon to tour Australia with their latest album The Industrialist; an album that has been distinguished as the sequel to the bands penetrative 1995 album Demanufacture. Dying of the Arizona heat, vocalist Burton C Bell sits down with Metal As Fuck whilst on the Industrialist World Tour to discuss the philosophy of Fear Factory and the standard Demanufacture left to the world of industrial music.
The world tour, strutting your stuff with the latest album The Industrialist, how has the material been received so far? “So far really great, a very positive reaction”. How do you go about creating your set list these days anyway? I mean if it were up to me I’d have you playing everything from 1992 to 2012, but that’s just me. “Oh god, I’d die at the end of that show [Laughs] we pick the songs that are going to have a good flow. Over the years we have learned which songs translate nicely to the crowd. This current tour though its different, we are doing both old and new songs every night and they are going off”.
The long line of notion behind the music of Fear Factory has been the man versus the machine chronicle however the concept behind the Industrialist is from the perspective of the machine this time around. Do you feel this new perspective has opened up a new door; as it were for exploration and interpretation? “Yeah why not I mean it’s something people can think about you know, they are able to put themselves into that situation of someone taking a life, as these days taking a life is not considered relevant anymore. Would you fight for your right to live in that certain situation? The ‘creator’ has deemed the machine obsolete and now the machine is on the charge to destroy the creator. This is something that is happening to people in our day and age”.
The album; noted as the bands return to the industrial genus; an element that the band felt had been neglected for the past few years. How has this element been captured in the Industrialist? “A sense of experimentation i'd say, the rhythms of the music put us on the up; we were taking new steps in unity. Using a drum machine [Laughs] we had no fear to experiment with different sounds this time around and it’s captured it”. Until I had heard the latest album I thought ‘what? Pfft bunch of crazies’ yet comparing Archetype and Transgression to Mechanize and now the Industrialist; you can hear that it was missing that clinical, cold machine aspect. “Absolutely, when I listen to Demanufacture I know that it is, and always will be the standard for Fear Factory just like Vulgar Display of Power was for Pantera, how the Black Album was for Metallica; this is the standard our fans have set for us and this is the standard we need to uphold”.
How long did it take to form the ideas for The Industrialist? “We went into the studio last year; Rhys [Fulber], Dino [Cazares] and myself and began talking about concepts that dealt with munificent inspiration. Things that inspire us. Knowing that I wanted to continue on from Obsolete it was the album title that basically drew it all together for the concept. The Industrialist, it’s a great word and it just paved the way for the album, a machine that rebels from its creator, battling the establishment in order for his right to survive, it’s a great story and heading into the studio in October, we had it drilled out by March, it was insane”.
What is the biggest challenge do you think when faced with writing a concept album? Especially one as intricate as The Industrialist “Trying not to repeat yourself, try not to alienate an audience with the ideas you have hatched. If you focus on what you do best; the music everything else is generally given a heartbeat. We understated Fear Factory a lot in the beginning but over time it has had its evolution, and it’s a very deliberate evolution; deliberate but also natural”. Have you ever suffered from writers block? “Yeah I have had times where nothing wanted to come out of my head, times where I just could not think of anything to say but generally I had worked myself up into that state, I learnt early on that you just need to relax”.
It has been apparent since the release of Demanufacture what the overall theme of Fear Factory is, the man versus machine aspect, the reliance on technology in the 21st century, humanity becoming more and more astringent, however today, the present, right now; what does Fear Factory represent? “First and foremost the genre of industrial metal, we are the definition of this genre, we are the only band who do what we do. We represent the genre of industrial metal”. The band took such an innovative approach towards the hybridization of the genre; do you feel that Fear Factory will forever set this standard for industrial music as a whole? “Fear Factory was built on influences then we created its own sound. The biggest influences for me were Ministry, Napalm Death and Godflesh. Yes, we are the standard; Fear Factory is the standard for industrial music without a doubt”.
And you yourself have even described the Industrialist as ‘Demanufacture plus’. This made me wonder about the music of Fear Factory – is it so regimented, so formulated and having to meet this certain standard that it doesn’t allow much breathing space when writing? “Absolutely, I mean we avoid comparing albums but we definitely took the ideas that Fear Factory has experimented with over the last few years and used them with The Industrialist. Sometimes we hit the mark and sometimes we totally miss the target, and the fans usually respond with ‘what the fuck is this?’ So it’s important to stay within the customs of the music. Most of our fan base loved Demanufacture and that’s why you do it, I mean it’s always fun to experiment but Demanufacture is the standard for Fear Factory, it’s not limiting really it’s what the fans want and they know what Fear Factory has to be”.
Is it crucial for a lyricist to have a central concept to their writing, like an overall theme? “When it comes to Fear Factory yeah, especially when we came up with the name of Fear Factory it wasn’t just a cool metal band name but a name to make people think. A philosophy was born with Fear Factory; with this it created an image, a sound; an identity for Fear Factory”.
As you’ve said, the album was completed in four months, what could be disputed as record time. With such an impressive feat, what sorts of challenges were encountered? “The challenge was to have it finished by March [Laughs]. We love a challenge though, it really creates an energy and once the idea was born it was no holds back”.
Dino’s return in 2009 saw him subsequently being a part of Mechanize and The Industrialist however in relation to the latest album in particular, had there been any pressures whilst the two of you were writing the album, because it is again the original Fear Factory? “I wouldn’t say pressure, there was excitement, and we had to prove that it was Fear Factory you know. I knew we could do it; Mechanize was the quote unquote ‘getting to know you again album’ [Laughs] it wasn’t a full thought all the way through, Dino and I had two years to get it all sorted”.
So we are joined by the two of you in Australia soon Burton, how are we shaping up? “I’m really so happy to get back to Australia, and to headline in Australia is the best feeling. It has been way too long since our last visit, the tour is kicking ass at the moment, and Australia will kick some major ass. The band is tighter than ever before, we can’t wait!”.